NAQP SSB 2014

Having prior plans for travel to India, I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to participate in the North American QSO Party (NAQP) Single Sideband contest.

Fortunately(?), I picked up a nasty cold a week ago and have been fighting it since.  The doc prescribed some antibiotics and suggested that I shouldn’t travel, if I could avoid it.  I spent the day out and about, at the Groundspeak Geocaching Block Party.  When I realized I wasn’t travelling, I snuck over to the home station and got on the air for a few.

I only stayed on the air for 90 minutes and only worked 20m. I submitted logs as unassisted rookie, single-op, low power, 20m, today. I didn’t read the rules until this AM, after I submitted logs. The NAQP is QRP and Low power only. Thankfully I left the amp off, but submitted logs before I had my first cup of coffee and selected high power (>100W), out of habit. The robot kicked back my submission and I was able to correct it. Not that I’ll be competitive, but it’ll be nice to have a score listed.

Band   QSOs Pts Sec Mt2
14     46   46  21  0
Total  46   46  21  0
Score: 966

Now, why did I leave the amp off? It’s been arcing on a occasion and I can’t seem to track down the cause. It may be headed back to Ameritron for a once-over, before too long. W7AMD, Chris, has offered some helpful suggestions, but nothing that I’ve been able to do, with my limited abilities has eliminated the frightening BZZZT. In this case? It let me submit “legal” logs for a big contest. Kizmet? Good luck? Nah, but it did work out OK for this contest.

QRP /1, remote operations, and DXCC

I’m visiting my team in Cambridge, MA and brought the KX3 with me. Yesterday, Tuesday evening, I managed to sneak down to an area near the St. Charles river around 7pm Eastern (2300z) and set up on the grass.

Portable QRP Ops on St. Charles River - K7ADD/1

Portable QRP Ops

I managed to forget the USB soundcard, so I was working phone, only. It was a great opportunity to test out my new batteries,voltage regulator, and EARCHI end-fed half-wave antenna. The battery (5500mAh LiPo pack) performed tremendously and I’m pretty sure I didn’t put a dent in it with the 45 minutes I was QRV. The voltage regulator (another post) worked perfectly, but needs to be ‘ruggedized’ before I’m confident that it’ll do in less favorable conditions. The EARCHI end-fed half-wave antenna was perfect and didn’t really even need the built in ATU in the KX3. Conditions were quite good and I was able to make a couple short contacts. Got a 57 from a 5-lander in eastern Texas and a 55 from Ohio before the wind and cold got to me. Maybe the YL will be up for a walk and chilling by the water, after she arrives, tonight. I’ve also been playing with software for remote operations and may have found the ideal hotel setup. While travelling, I find myself with downtime and can’t always take a rig with me. While I do intend to get a VU3 license for India, travel to China means I can’t take a radio with me (let alone use it!). I’ve found that remotely controlling my home station can scratch that itch. I’d previously used a combination of Teamviewer to Ham Radio Deluxe and the Remotehams.com RCForb client/server. This was a bit of a hack, but mostly kinda worked. DF3CB has produced FT2000RC, a client/server package for remote operation of the FT-2000, FT-950, and FTDX-5000. It back hauls CAT control, as well as bi-directional audio.

FT2000RC, showing the FT-950 faceplate.

FT2000RC, showing the FT-950 faceplate.

I can’t reiterate how well implemented it is. Bernd has done a fantastic job of replicating the “face plate experience.” While the FT-950 isn’t 100% implemented (menu functions, for instance), it’s enough to work the station remotely. FT2000RC includes a fantastic DX cluster client that implements a very slick “click to tune” and prefix decoding. My favorite feature, is the split/QSX frame. Two clicks and I’m “up 3? or “down 5.”

FT2000RC - QSX

FT2000RC – QSX

I managed a quick 17m contact with W1AW/0 in Nebraska before it flipped over to W1AW/0 in South Dakota. Now to pick up South Dakota, hopefully on several band-modes. I’m travelling through Wednesday and 5/21 (UTC) and would likely miss South Dakota entirely, without remote operations. Even if I worked them portable /1, it wouldn’t “count.” Recent uploads have brought me to: Your total number of contacts with W1AW portable stations is 162. If you’re not a Yaesu user, check out his remote audio package, remaud. It seamlessly inter-operates with FT2000RC, but works incredibly well on it’s own, too. In other news, I’ve officially got 100 DXCC entities confirmed (and awarded) in LoTW and should have both “Basic” and “Phone” awarded when they finish checking my cards. On to the endorsements! :) DXCC (LoTW only) stats behind the break.

DXCCAward New LoTW QSLs LoTW QSLs in Process DXCC Credits Awarded Total(All) Total(Current)
Mixed 0 0 100 100 100
Phone 0 0 92 92 92
Digital 0 0 41 41 41
80M 0 0 4 4 4
40M 0 0 18 18 18
30M 0 0 6 6 6
20M 0 0 59 59 59
17M 0 0 37 37 37
15M 0 0 52 52 52
12M 0 0 34 34 34
10M 0 0 52 52 52
6M 1 0 0 1 1
Challenge 1 0 262 263

First Awards

[update 4/25: I’m now WAS with an endorsement for 20m. LoTW was update this AM with a little <Awarded> next to Basic and 20m. All this for those little asterisks below.]

K7ADD awarded Worked All States Basic and Worked All States on 20M

K7ADD awarded Worked All States Basic and Worked All States on 20M

I just applied for the ARRL Basic Worked All States (WAS), 20m WAS, DX Century Club – Mixed, and DX Century Club – Phone. I’m a handful of states away on several other WAS awards, listed behind the break. I honestly hadn’t considered applying for them, but when the Logbook of the World (LoTW) page says “50 states”, it’s hard to resist.

The DXCC application will be a little more complicated. I’ve got several confirmed DXCC entities that were confirmed by paper card, so I’ll need to get those checked before they’ll award it the Mixed and Phone. Anyway, this is the start of the wallpaper collection.


Basic 50 Confirmed 20m 50 Confirmed Digital 49 Confirmed Missing: VT JT65 45 Confirmed Missing: DE, ID, NV, ND, VT 40M 43 Confirmed Missing: AK, AR, ME, MD, MT, RI, VT 20M Phone 43 Confirmed Missing: AR, MT, OK, OR, RI, SD, WV 20M Digital 41 Confirmed Missing: ID, IA, KY, MS, NV, NH, VT, WI, WY


 

W1AW/* are Staffed by Humans

As much as I’ve been enjoying the W1AW portable stations, obesity I’ve been dismayed by the pileup behavior of some of the hams calling. As a new ham, unhealthy I assumed that most would be well-behaved, clinic but I’ve been proved wrong more than once. When trying to work /2 (New Jersey), the RTTY op did a fantastic job of keeping the contacts rolling and making it clear when and where to call. I was impressed enough to add a little personal note to my exchange.

15:59:26z> Main

>>> K7ADD K7ADD K7ADD K <<< CQ CQ W1AW 15:59:37z> Main>>> K7ADD K7ADD K7ADD K <<< K7ADD 599 NJ K7ADD 15:59:51z> Main >>> W1AW/2 UR 599 599 WWA WWA TU UR DOIN GREAT JOB K7ADD <<< THANKS FOR THE NICE WORDS, BUT NOW QSY TO 15 SSB QSY 15M SSB DE W1AW/1 OP W2IRT W1AW/2 WSY 15 PHONE.

Yes, I did catch him on 15m Phone, a couple hours later. I can’t say it enough, I’m really impressed by the patience of the W1AW ops and I’m thoroughly enjoying the Centennial QSO Party. https://centennial-qp.arrl.org/my-scores-w1aw.php says:

Your total number of contacts with W1AW portable stations is 136.

…and the results are in.

This last Sunday, I participated in the ARRL Rookie Roundup Contest. tl,dr; Results first:

37 rookies @ 2 points each, 122 non-rookies @ 1 point each (74+122) = 196 QSO Points 41 states, 4 VE provinces/territories, 1 DX for (46 Multipliers) = Total Score of 9,016

I’ve made contest contacts before, but I’ve opted to give points to the participants instead of attempting to rack up the points myself. Contests are often a good opportunity to hunt DX, as some hams have vacation places in remote or not-oft-heard DXCC entities. I’ve also just enjoyed making a handful of contacts over a short period of time and helping out those participating. Having paid a little attention to “radiosport” and the resultant scores for big contests (CQ WW, ARRL DX, et al.), I quickly realized that to be competitive, you had to take it seriously. Contest stations are among the most impressive on the air, often with huge towers, legal limit amplifiers, and stacked yagis. These mega stations are purpose-built and well suited for the job. The contesters themselves are incredibly skilled operators, able to pick out callsigns and exchanges out of the fog of a pileup and the most painful of QSB. When I ran across the ARRL Rookie Roundup Contest page, in November, I immediately decided immediately to compete. The number of QSOs submitted for previous years seemed like they were within reach from my meager station and my noob skills. The number of participants is limited (12 in 2013) and, by very definition of the contest, roughly the same amount of experience. “I can do this one!”

I added the contest to the calendar when I noticed it was approaching, last week, I set about prepping. I had played with the N1MM contest logging software, previously, and took this as an opportunity to fully explore the software and prep for Field Day. I agreed to set up the computer logging and digital stations for our club’s Field Day operations and N1MM was a likely candidate, given its ubiquity. Quick conclusion? It’s perfect for contest logging, but I won’t be supplanting HRD Logbook for day-to-day logging. Saturday evening (around 01:00z – 18 hours before the contest was to begin), I stepped into the shack, pointed the hexbeam east, warmed up the tubes, and started calling CQ on 20m. My intent was to practice with the logging software and work out any last minute kinks in the system. between 2345z and 0200z, I have fantastic luck with propogation between my station and almost the entire continental US, as well as Alaska.

A few QSOs into the run, a local ham, WB7ELX, gave me a call and after a couple pleasantries, he moved along. N1MM showed big red text in the “Info” window: “K7ADD spotted on 14.246 by WB7ELX” Very quickly, I was working a pile-up. This has unintentionally happened during the greyline “witching hours” and I’ve enjoyed the adrenaline rush of working a pileup. Saturday evening, I worked 45 stations in less than an hour from all over the US. These weren’t terribly hurried contacts, but I set the tone that I was turning over QSOs quickly. I wished people a “Happy Easter,” mentioned that I was working the contest on Sunday and asked them to come give all of us a shout. Conditions weren’t great, but I was confident about Sunday, given this experience. I slept horribly Saturday evening, still fighting some jetlag from my trips to VU3 (Andra Pradesh, India) and BY1 (Beijing, China). I awoke Sunday with a slight headache and some flu symptoms, but excited for the contest! A couple cups of coffee and I grabbed water, Altoids, and headed for the shack. I got on the air a few minutes before the contest started, at 10:50AM Pacific.

I poked around to see what bands were hoppin’, hoping to grab some 10m and 15m action. No such luck, 10m was dead, with the exception of KC4TVZ. I can often hear him here in WA with a CQ on repeat… my 10m beacon of choice. “Oh well, I’ll give it a try, anyway.” 3 QSOs in 10 minutes, and I moved on. 15m was not much better, so I went about staking out a spot in the already crowded 20m band. I managed to find a spot up at 14.325 — further up the band than I’d hoped, verified it was not in use and started calling right at 1800z. Conditions were still far from ideal, with a relatively high noise level. I was hopeful, given the SFI of 169, though. I made 14 Qs by 1842z and AE7NR, Rob, dropped by. He spotted me and the fun began. My QSO rate doubled and I’d worked 26 stations in the first hour.

I’ll post about N1MM and logging software another time, but it does a fantastic job of keeping the op aware of QSOs rates and available multipliers (I was running “assisted” mode, logged into a cluster). I was hit with some pretty nasty QRM on 14.325 a couple times and moved down to 14.268 and then 14.282, often playing cat-and-mouse with changing propagation and QRM. I poked my head into 10m and 15m a couple times, throughout the day. Made a couple contacts there, but couldn’t match the 20m QSO rates, so I settled on grinding it out on 20m. It was nice to have a directional antenna (K4KIO Hexbeam) and a good wire antenna (ZS6BKW) for listening.

old-qth

Working condx for ARRL RR

Mid-morning, I worked my prediction for the #1 spot in the W7 calling area, K7CDX, Michelle. I mentioned that she may know a mutual friend K7CXN, Christian, and asked her to say hi. Small world and all that. I don’t know her working conditions, but her station sounded great. I suspect she benefited a bit from the “YL factor” and very persistent spots. A preliminary congrats to Michelle! She’s a skilled op with roughly similar amount of time in the hobby and deserving of the top spot, if she lands it. I also dropped in on W1AW/0 in North Dakota to pick up a multiplier. I chatted with AG5Z, Larry and his friend N4FF, Ike, in Mississippi for bit. With those two exceptions, I attempted to keep turning over QSOs on 20m. F5JD, José, surprised me at 2323z, giving me a DX multiplier. I said it earlier, but cluster spots make a huge difference. KD0NMZ, Mike in IA, and KD5RXP, Brian in TX, both gave me a bump as greyline approached and conditions improved.

I ended the contest with a bang topping 45 Qs in the last hour. KB1VUU, Rob in MA, made it in under the wire and brought the day to a close. Overall, I had a blast and learned a ton. I’m super pleased with my effort, regardless of how I finished… that wasn’t the point anyway!
ARRL Rookie Round-Up W7

I entered the ARRL Rookie Roundup contest, this last weekend. I came in second for the W7 calling area and third continent-wide. Very happy with my score and, as I said before, I learned a ton. Congrats to K7CDX on top placement! One item of note, the two top scores on the continent were both women. Here’s hoping this is the start of a ground-swell of women in the hobby, just like we’re starting to see in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).